Christmas Eve in Siberia (1892) by Jacek MalczewskiThe National Museum in Krakow
Everyone gathered around the same table, from young to old, on Christmas Eve. However, what’s this atmosphere of silence and solitude? Are they a family or not?
No, unfortunately they aren’t. The scene depicts Polish deportees in Siberia during the tsarist rule of Poland, after the uprising in 1863, which the artist witnessed at the age of nine. Despite these people living in the same bitter condition, each of them feels alone.
Nobody looks at their companions. Each table-mate has a personal way of experiencing grief: those who pray, those who are lost in their thoughts, those who refuse to look around.
The painter plays with two sources of light: the cold one -coming from the window- and the candle’s warm one -which paradoxically accentuates the toughness of the features instead of softening them.
The robust, violent, and uneven brushstroke defines the figures with broken and flickering outlines. This realism stresses the discouragement of the individuals.
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